February 16, 2012

Are You Making Natural Hair Look Bad?

The natural hair revolution has unearthed a few zealots who may be sending some offensive messages to the non-natural hair population.

I was talking to one of my non-natural friends recently.  We've been friends for years, and the fact that I have natural hair is not at the center of our conversations nor is it an integral part of our relationship.  She has a cadre of natural friends, however, who are really making her loathe the phrase "natural hair."  She told me that these particular women feel that they must represent natural hair in its raw, unadulterated state.  In other words, they wake up and however their hair looks, that's their look for the day.

Not only does their hair look reminiscent of poor little "Buckwheat," the very racist representation of blackness from 1930s American media, but these women are elitist about their unkempt "naturalness." They often subjugate and ridicule other black women with chemically straightened or heat straightened hair.  Apparently, these types of "Natural Nazis" are growing in numbers.

The point of any revolution should be to voice the frustrations of the people and bring about a change that the people welcome.  If we are in the midst of a natural hair revolution, these natural Nazis are not likely to recruit new naturals.  The "Buckwheat" fro is just not a good look.  The character of Buckwheat was not constructed to represent a cute lovable ideal.  He was constructed by the white mainstream media of the 1930s for the amusement of white audiences.  Buckwheat's wild, electrified hair, large white eyes, and stylized dark skin was a common racist trope of the early 20th century.  The "jigaboo," "spook", "porch monkey," "sambo" character represented the racist stereotypes that defined black folks as aesthetically ugly if not comical and feeble.

Natural hair can be, like any other hair type, beautiful.  But purposely refusing to manipulate natural hair, like any other hair type, leaves it matted, unkempt, and unappealing.  Wearing a "Buckwheat" look would not and should not encourage any non-natural to toss the chemicals.  New naturals need not wear their naturalness like armor, beating everyone else over the head with it.  Looking beautiful in their natural skin is what encourages other women to "go natural." And if we are waging a natural hair revolution, ultimately, we need new recruits.